Understand the advantages and disadvantages of using React Native for your mobile app development project. Get insights into how this powerful framework can expedite the development process, reduce costs, improve app quality, and more.
Advantages and disadvantages of React Native for mobile app development
Finding the best-suited technology is a key factor in app development. React Native is a framework of choice in many IT projects and for good reasons. Nevertheless, it has weaknesses you should consider before making the final decision.
Launching a software development project is challenging in many ways. You can make it less overwhelming by adopting a methodic, well-structured, and goal-oriented approach or partnering with an experienced digital product agency that will guide you through the process. One of the critical concerns is choosing the right technology. Going with the most suitable language and framework can heavily impact the project's outcome. Making the right decisions is likely to:
- speed up the development process,
- reduce overall costs, including maintenance,
- boost the product's quality,
- facilitate the scaling of your app,
- improve the software's security.
On the other hand, hasty choices may yield opposite results.
When you embark on a mobile app development project, there are quite a few technologies to choose from. Some, though, stand out from the crowd more than others. One of them is React Native – the most popular mobile-oriented UI development framework, along with Flutter.
What is React Native (and how did it come to be)?
The framework, initiated as an internal hackathon project in 2013, was created at Facebook (currently Meta Platforms) and released in 2015. The social media giant struggled with stability and efficiency issues in its mobile app due to overreliance on HTML5 and wanted to address them with new technology.
The results were outstanding. Not long after the release, React Native was embraced by Microsoft and Samsung, which struck a partnership with Facebook to bring the framework to Windows and Tizen. The technology was headed for success and has remained the cream of the crop to this day. Well, on par with Flutter.
React Native's key advantages
Since its inception, React Native has garnered massive popularity and contributed to creating plenty of powerful UIs. Top apps leveraging the framework's capabilities include Facebook Ads, Instagram, UberEATS, Airbnb, Discord, SoundCloud Pulse, and many more. React's success is not founded on hype, although widespread recognition and ever-growing community aid in its evolution. There are several essential reasons why the framework made it to the top of the league.
Fast and cost-efficient development and maintenance
As a cross-platform technology, React Native allows you to create apps for multiple operating systems at once, with special regard to Android and iOS. Not only do you save time and money during the development phase, but you also make maintenance much easier and cost-efficient. Using a single codebase can speed up time to market and streamline future upgrades. With such benefits, React Native is an excellent option for businesses operating on a fixed or limited budget that is determined to deploy their product ahead of the competition.
Code reusability and a strong community support
Around 85% of React Native's code can be reused between platforms, which makes for great efficiency and can save you up to 40% of the development costs. Cross-platform capacity is one aspect of code reusability. Another one results from a vast developer community and strong support for the framework. According to Statista figures (2021), React Native is a framework of choice for about 40% of mobile front-end developers in the cross-platform segment. This means a lot of React-based code is created and made available for reuse in different projects, saving you the trouble of reinventing the wheel. You can also count on help and friendly advice if you reach a deadlock. Finally, React's modular architecture enhances code reusability, which facilitates reusing code and components across applications.
Native-like performance and smooth user experience
Hot reloading and live reloading
Hot reloading and live reloading are two great features in React Native worth mentioning besides more general advantages. They make app development much more convenient and speed up the whole process. Hot reloading allows UI designers to preview the changes in the code without reloading the entire app, which saves time and nerves, increasing efficiency. On the other hand, the live reloading function automatically reloads the application when you save a change to the code. It saves you the effort of refreshing the app manually – at the cost of efficiency, though, since it requires a full restart. Anyway, the choice is yours: you can go with one or the other option according to your preferences.
React Native's key disadvantages
Being as good as it is, React Native has its downsides that may influence your project's course and outcome. Let's point out several often-named cons you should be aware of before making the final decision.
Native-like doesn't equal native
React Native is praised for delivering native-like qualities, which, for the most part, is true. However, there are some constraints the framework can't overcome. React has limited access to the device's hardware and APIs and is unable to provide users with all native features. It results in lesser control over the look and feel of the app compared to fully native development. It may also block some apps from accessing specific functions. Typically, though, the gap between native-like and native isn't that significant and will remain unnoticeable for most users.
Third-party reliance and limited support
A relatively steep learning curve
Possible compatibility issues
React Native offers limited compatibility for certain device types and operating systems. As a result, some users, especially those with older smartphones, may be unable to run React-based apps due to hardware limitations or a lack of relevant code. Also, many React Native libraries lack backward compatibility, which makes it harder to introduce recent improvements to older applications. These issues are being constantly addressed, but they are still present and may get in the way of your project.
Things to consider when choosing React Native for your project
Choosing the most optimal technology for your project is always a challenge. Apart from relevant experience, it requires a clear vision of your goals, resources, and limitations. Beyond typical pros and cons, there are several more detailed factors to consider depending on the type and scope of your endeavor. The more complex and demanding your project is, the bigger the need for careful analysis and external assistance.
The key issues to investigate when looking at React Native include:
- compatibility with existing code and dedicated infrastructure (is there a risk of having to leave out some features?),
- app functionality and features required (can they be delivered by a cross-platform framework, or do they require a purely native approach?),
- development timeline and resources (is React Native the fastest and most cost-efficient framework for your project?),
- design limitations and user experience (can you build the desired UI with React Native without compromising quality?),
- availability of developer expertise and resources (do you have the necessary resources, including human capital, to proceed with the project?).
Figuring out these questions will bring you closer to making the decision. It might also turn your attention to other issues to resolve and make necessary adjustments to your plan.
Best practices for React Native development (and maintenance)
When you finally decide to move on with a React Native project, remember to follow the best practices throughout the development process and beyond. They include:
- designing a proper app architecture and establishing a file structure,
- optimizing app performance and user experience,
- developing efficient testing and debugging strategies,
- ensuring smooth integration with existing code and infrastructure,
- leveraging the React Native ecosystem and community.
Always keep in mind that a software development project doesn't conclude with deployment and will need proper maintenance in the following years. The costs of updates and supervision will depend on the choices made at the outset and the quality of the development. That's why it's so important to approach the subject with sufficient expertise and tailor the most suitable strategy with business goals in mind.
React Native in mobile app development
React Native is a splendid framework that can make your effort so much easier when aptly applied to the right project. It is among the top options to consider if you care about fast development and cost efficiency as much as you care about smooth UX, good performance, and high scalability. On the other hand, React Native may fall short of your expectations if you're devising a large-scale project involving heavy calculations, animations, or complex user interfaces. The framework is also not advised for apps requiring native APIs and those designed for a single operating system.
Every software development project is unique and requires an individual approach. Feel free to reach out if you're having trouble deciding which framework will best suit your goals. We always enjoy looking into the technicalities!